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The Abyss Looks Back

| 52 Comments

Instapundit links to Jeff Goldstein complaining that someone he studied under doesn't want to be associated with him. Goldstein launches a self-righteous screed about how the wimpy liberals won't tolerate the truthtelling he's doing on his blog.

I delinked Goldstein a long time ago, because he's sounding more and more - sadly - like Deb Frisch. I'm not sorry I defended him against her and sympathized with him ... but I wouldn't want my name on his blog today, either.

What's the line about staring too long into the abyss?
-

52 Comments

We'll have to agree to disagree on this. I've seen too much of modern academe not to sympathize with Goldstein, especially the English lit departments. But it might serve the purpose of civil discussion if those who think Goldstein monstrous to point out exactly how you could caricature Obama in a bad light without being branded as racist? I sorta feel creepy about both sides of that argument, but more about drawing the veil on it as the good Prof suggests than not. I certainly find the argument that "we voted for this" rather specious. Even if I had voted for Obama, it wouldn't have been to realize something this tawdry.

But from a purely artistic point of view I'd prefer to see how Ricky Gervais would make that point. I'd even pay to see it.

Yay Jeff Goldstein.

He's engaging with big issues, and he might be right.

And I like him a lot better than people who sling around demeaning "shut up" words like "racist" on the basis that they, not the speaker, define what the speaker's message "really" was.

"Self-righteous" is a weak attack. As is your link to what seems like a hate site about someone I've never heard of.

Well, the full quote (from Beyond Good and Evil) is:
He who fights monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. When you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
Personally, I am not a post-good-and-evil type of person, and I believe in fighting monsters, with appropriate equipment and a due degree of caution.

So I think it's over the top to compare Jeff Goldstein to Deb Frisch. He didn't threaten to shoot the guy, and rape his children. In fact, I think it would be over the top to compare him to Duncan Black.

As for the cartoon that sparked the incident, it was tasteless. It's ridiculous to take it as personally defamatory of Obama, or as a statement about black men raping white women - and to think that a statement like that strikes some kind of significant chord with the public is itself parochial stupidity; exactly the kind of close-mindedness, intolerance, disdain, and illiberalism that pollutes the soi-disant Liberal Arts.

Folks, I kind of believe JG and I are ideologically not crazy far apart. But between threatening to beat people up, explaining that the only way a woman writer would be cool is "if she was f**ked with an ice dildo" and the overall self-pitying tone - which as I see it is everywhere a precursor and justification for asshattery - I think he does his beliefs a disservice. And I can't bitch out assholes who do Village Voice covers with a vampire Bush if Obama raping Liberty is OK with me.

Tone matters (Marcus V was right-on and pitch perfect in his comment) and on some level, tone becomes philosophy.

And regarding the Academy - remember I'm the 'Bad Philosophy' guy. Of course the Academy is effed up.

But that wasn't the point of Goldstein's screed. A guy he'd studied writing with dislikes his writing enough that he asked to have his name taken off Goldstein's biography. I can understand why.

Marc

I think you missed the point on this one Marc. The issue is a past instructor of Jeff's wishes to be removed from his bio, in essence erasing history.

That is absurd. Particularly since the professor teaches English and Creative Writing. http://mysite.du.edu/~bkiteley/

Don't you think his request kind of flies in the face of Academic Freedom and all that jazz?

He should have condemned Goldstein on his own blog, or even requested a disclaimer be placed on Goldstein's bio page condemning his blog or disassociating himself from it and Goldstein.

That is the essence of Jeff's complaint. Not that Kitely "can't handle the truth" but that he is a hypocrite and really doesn't believe what he teaches his students.

That is sad.

on another note gimme a ring and lets catch up 8)

Well, I thought about it and in the interests of answering my own question, and Jeff's, and because I'm interested in the cutting edge of political humor, let me describe a similar cartoon that gets the point across without adopting a set of images that are quite as crude. Let's say that I'm an artist who understands the subtleties of the human face well enough to depict Obama as a product of his mother, omitting the features he inherited from his dad. So he's still recognizably Obama, but white. And not white in a whiteface kind of way, but as a sort of immaculate conception implying a kind of mockery of his messianic self love. And then let's suppose that we depict Lady Liberty not as a french white woman but as a black woman. In fact, let's depict her as the kind of beauty that Cobb talks about who would pass "the brown bag test." Lady Liberty now has the characteristics of multiracialism that we've removed from Obama.

The rest of the cartoon remains exactly the same. Now I maintain that this piece of art carries not only the same message, but also a deeper meaning that touches on the monstrosity that you call "bad philosophy." Here we have the Copperhead President raping the daughter of slaves, after a Republican administration over a hundred years ago had made her freedom of such import that it required a Civil War and the sacrifice of nearly 3/4th of a million human beings.

I think it suggests the implications of a modern slavery being launched by this bad philosophy of yours, or that you're so good to point out. Moreover, it has a viscous BITE that the original cartoon lacks because of the way it exploits more conventional stereotypes. In fact, it uses a more modern politically correct stereotype of the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse players, inviting those PC Profs to adopt the stance of their former opposition.

Yes, I know this doesn't really address the heart of Jeff's complaint, but it does say that it could have been done differently, for what it's worth.

BTW, just for the sake of historical reference, the term "miscegenation" was invented by a northern Copperhead named David Croly as one of the most daring trojan horses in American history. He attempted to use the fear of race mixing "then called amalgamation" by producing a pseudo-scientific paper about all the benefits it provides, in order to build opposition to the Civil War in the North. It didn't work, but it's worth pointing out that Croly's little project did contribute to the institutionalization of Jim Crow in the South after the Civil War.

Glen, I have found that it requires an extensive higher education and advanced degrees in political philosophy to be able to perceive the pony inside the monster.

Tone matters (Marcus V was right-on and pitch perfect in his comment) and on some level, tone becomes philosophy.

Ah, irony. I had looked on that comment a few hours after I wrote it, and thought I was overwrought. But I'm glad someone thought highly of it in any event-- and I stand by the sentiment.

Also, I like that phrase, "tone becomes philosophy."

It's interesting you bring up Jeff Goldstein, though. In this case, I'm a bit on both sides of the fence, in that I don't think either Jeff nor his one-time mentor are behaving exceptionally well. The cartoon was in poor taste; that doesn't mean it was racist; the mentor may reasonably object to being used as advertising; they both seem to be completely overwrought.

Aside from that, though, Bgates calls me out here, looking for the Republicans who enjoy watching people die in the street. I believe he's referring to thiscomment.

I drafted a response last night, but shelved it until after I'd slept, and I post it here instead because Goldstein figured in that draft.

So, first, notice that I didn't accuse Republicans, I accused Libertarians, and not all of them but only the extreme ones. Second, I never said anything about famous. There are at least two ways to be a nasty extremists capital-L Libertarian, and Goldstein does a good job of exemplifying at least one. In this article he's so minarcihst or market anarchist-- I can't really tell which-- that he's opposing nutritional labelling in large restaurant chains. Not just opposing it, but foaming and ruining his clothes and calling it not a slippery slope, but an ice rink turned on edge.

Sanity check, here. Nutritional labelling. On menus. In large restaurant chains. Is a threat to liberty and decency. Funny, I'm a small-l libertarian, and I think that's a fanfuckingtastic idea, because I always thought the notion was that, if provided with good information, people can make good choices on their own. But Jeff has somehow talked himself 'round to the position that labelling is tyranny.

He spins it as anti-big-business because it only targets large chains, but I'm sure in other circumstances he's spin it as anti-small-business if it didn't. And it's really not hard to picture him standing there and defending the right of restaurants to undercook their food, or season it with rat poison (yummmm!) because the market will solve the problem.... eventually.

If this is government regulation too intrusive to be borne than what ins't? None, is the only response I can see.

The other kind-- and no blog example springs readily to mind, but I work with a few-- are the type who come across as some hideous love child of Inspector Javert and Ragnar Danneskjold. Seriously, I get the argument about why 20% of the GDP is a little much for the government to manage. I'm not sure exactly where my cut-off is, but 20% is way beyond it, not to mention, I don't believe the current plans will work. But there are some folks out there on the far end of the libertarian spectrum who do seem to be waiting for a pirate to slip a gold bar under their pillow at night, whether we're worried about 20%, 2%, or 0.2%.

(My hope is that some day, technology will reduce health care to a slice of GDP comparable to that invested in agriculture, at which point this debate becomes moot. But if we ever get there-- 1% of GDP or less-- and there are still people not receiving adequate healthcare, then yes, I'll be campaigning for government intervention.)

Now, although I try not to even have an ideology, these people probably count as my ideological distant cousins. I feel no particular shame in calling them out and denouncing them, because they are harmful, embarassing lunatics. They are who democrats point to when they laugh at libertarianism.

By the same token, Republicans need to stand up to their own embarassments. So, frankly, to Democrats. Don't feel uniquely picked on, guys-- every party and philosophy has its loudmouthed lunatics.

Marcus V: Where's the "like" button?

Aaaaaand, predictably, I screwed up the links.
Fooey. The link to Bgates' comment is here.

I delinked Goldstein a long time ago, because he's sounding more and more - sadly - like Deb Frisch.
Maybe you need to review Deb Frisch's arguments, and reconsider that statement. Or one might well compare you to, say, the Unabomber, given that you're all armed and treacherous.

Well, it appears the Professor is a hypocritical, intellectual snob.

What do we file that under? Dog Bites Man stories?

"tone becomes philosophy."

That's an interesting and compelling remark, and it might even be true, but it is no judge of a writer or thinker.

Many great American writers were men of acid tone - Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, and William S. Burroughs spring to mind. William Tecumseh Sherman - a man of actual as well as verbal violence - wrote the best American autobiography I've ever read. Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal were notorious jerks, but they wrote some good books along the way (The Naked and the Dead, Burr, and Lincoln.)

And if you want to get into European writers, you can multiply these examples by many thousands. Albert Camus was a nice guy; Lord Byron, not so much.

If I had taught writing to Ernest Hemingway, I certainly wouldn't try to conceal it. I would just disclaim any responsibility for property damage.

Sorry, folks - was out all day on a motorcycle ride and some family events...will jump in in the morning.

Marc

he's opposing nutritional labelling in large restaurant chains

Yes, yes he is. Likewise, AL wants to abolish the military. (What? He's opposed to the draft, right? So if you're opposed to making something mandatory, you're opposed to its existence in toto.)

it's really not hard to picture him standing there and defending the right of restaurants to undercook their food, or season it with rat poison

It's even easier to imagine a society in which nutritional labeling is not mandatory, yet murdering people with rat poison is illegal - which means it's possible to imagine people who believe nutritional labeling ought not be mandatory, yet murdering people with rat poison should be illegal.

If this is government regulation too intrusive to be borne than what ins't? None, is the only response I can see.

Another possible response can be found here.

Glen, there's a world of difference between an 'acid tone' (I have all of Twain and Mencken on the shelves) and "if I ever meet you, I'll kick your ass" and "fucked with an ice dildo" - even giving credit for the general degradation of discourse caused by Jackass reruns.

I've got no problem with the former, and a lot of problem with the latter. Blog post to follow - stuff to do this morning.

Marc

Glen, perhaps you recall that Mr. Twain's "acid tongue" was not profane and he was unfailing polite in person (including to the superstitious buffoons portrayed in the "Innocents Abroad").

In fact, his greatest embarrassment occurred at a dinner in Boston where his toast to Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier went so ghastly awry in tastelessness that he not only apologized via letter, he left the country due to embarrassment.

If only, Mr. Golstein were a tenth of the man Marcus is, he would have declaimed the ridiculous cartoon and wrote a mea cupla about the difference between Romney care and "socialism."

Then again, when one is proud to count among one's followers an unrequited Confederate like serr8d, then I suppose embarrassment is an emotion rarely felt....whereas self-pitying whining is apparently right at hand.

I really didn't expect to be answered by the assertion that Mark Twain was an unfailingly polite person who never used profane language, but here's a letter Twain wrote to a salesman in which he wished that the man would poison himself "and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve."

All of which is beside my point - to wit, that there is no correlation between a person's temperament and their value as a writer or commentator, and tone is not content.

But maybe I'm the one missing the point. Are we being schoolmarmish about sexual matters here? Some of us have had our sense of propriety about such things permanently ruined by reading French literature in translation. Playboy magazine couldn't have done half the job. Let's not even get into Shakespeare's endless jokes about female genitalia, because when you look into the vagina, it looks also into you.

...when you look into the vagina, it looks also into you.

Now that's priceless! In fact, I have felt that some of the pro-Obama renderings were the most racist-looking, but figured that was just me and I probably shouldn't say anything about it. This is definitely a realm of discourse that could use a little humor, but if the standards in the country have become a mixture of shock-jockery and depraved indifference then it's way beyond what Jeff Goldstein can pull back. And it will likely go much further. In the end it won't be what's the most shocking that endures, but what's the funniest.

First, it bears repeating that the cartoon in question isn't mine. Second, when I first saw it, it had already garnered a number of comments. My assessment is that it falls well withing the bounds of political commentary; removing it, whether immediately or otherwise and issuing a "mea culpa," therefore, would mean admitting I found something wrong with the fact of the cartoon. I did not. And I don't make a habit of apologizing for statements that aren't mine.

As I noted elsewhere, Marc's references to my having told a few people over the years that if I ever met we'd not spend time talking suggests to me that Marc's read more ABOUT those instances than he is familiar with how they came about. And that's fine: if he wants to make judgments second hand, that's his right. The only problem is, to do so is to risk getting the facts wrong, and so publicly condemning someone over something you know little about.

Over the years, I've had people threaten my son, wish me and my family death from cancer, or in airplane crashes, etc. I have made it clear -- first by attempting to use the legal system -- that attacks on my family are off limits. I have, on rare occasion, responded to what I considered the most egregious of those types of comments by letting the persons writing them know that, should I meet them in person, I wouldn't hesitate to snap their forearm or break their ankle.

I don't apologize for that. I don't go looking for these people, and to date -- having run a blog for close to 9 years -- I haven't yet had a single altercation.

Back when I was doing the Martha Stewart Chronicles, the ice dong, the sybian, shivs made out of pine cones -- all of these things (or things like them) played a role; I have running series featuring talking klan hoods; substance-abusing armadillos; Leif Garrett, Shannon Elizabeth, Peter Fonda, etc., commenting on current events; Corey Haim's notes from the afterlife; greeting cards from Ana Nichole Smith; and on and on and on.

These series are never explained. I rely on the site itself to teach its own grammar to readers. Those who stick with it tend to become die-hard regulars. Others leave confused, or angry, or bored.

The point being, that tropes from long comment threads will often spill over into new posts with no explanation. Running "inside" jokes populate the site. That's just the way the I like things.

And it has been running this way since the beginning. The "ice dong" woman -- whom I violently assaulted by telling her her best chance to be as cool as she was pretending to be was to pay someone to fuck her with a log of ice -- has been a commenter on my site for years. The wooden armadillo that sits next to my desk was a gift from her. My son's "I eat Paste" shirt likewise came from her.

My remarks, pointed though they were, spilled over into a new post from a comment thread in which the woman was taking shots at various conservatives, and using demographics to argue for a longterm electoral win for progressives. Her thesis is that the younger voters gravitate toward "cool," and that she was representative of that demographic: she writes in l33t speech, rarely punctuates, names herself after anime characters, etc. She's also a self-professed "griefer." My post was just me firing back in turn -- but only as an excuse to give the argument its own thread (the original argument had broken out at the end of an unrelated thread that had well over 100 comments).

Yet somehow, Marc is trying to say that he can pick out a line here and a line there -- like the ice dong line -- attribute it to some dramatic change in me, note that change as an isolate, then turn around and use it as a reflection of me in toto.

Hogwash.

-- Not "hogwash" that he can't make the argument; I assume he will. In fact, it will probably look something close to the disingenuous comment left above by Marcus, who pictures me "foaming" and the like -- when in fact, all I was pointing out is that, once the government has a strong fiscal interest in health care, any number of health care issues will become political footballs. I mean, is it really far-fetched to believe that the government won't someday claim -- by way of its connection to all that "free" healthcare it's giving away -- that it has a duty to regulate salt intake? Fat intake? Can they not justify taxing these things in the way they tax cigarettes? For "health reasons," might they not eventually require a certain BMI percentage be met -- else they'll help you meet that "healthy standard" by providing health camps?

At the very least, do not producers of certain foods have to fear lawsuits, with health-related issues the proximate cause?

Marcus clearly thinks such ideas are insane; but that just means Marcus trusts the government more than I do, and that he wasn't paying attention when, during the campaign against big tobacco, people like him laughed at the idea that the government would go after food using similar justifications.

-- None of which marks me as frothing. As bgates makes clear in his response, one need not look at what I wrote and take away from it that I'm stashing guns and canned soup into a bunker. Maybe I just don't think it's the place of the government to mandate certain things -- particular things that for years we've survived without just fine, thanks.

At any rate, several long time readers of my site have gone through my archives collecting pieces for a compilation. And while I suspect discerning readers will see a few changes in opinion here or there -- and maybe even some stylistic development (or devolution, depending on your point of view -- overall, it'll be quite clear that my site hasn't changed all that much since it began.

Suggesting to me that a better post for Marc to do would be to explore why he is offended now by what didn't offend him before.

There's a certain brand of asshole you really want on you side. (When he is on your side, you call him a "free-thinking curmudgeon" or something like that.)

Goldstein is someone you want in your tent if you're not "crazy far apart" because he's brilliant, and sees things in ways people not brilliant (in the same way) simply don't.

His co-bloggers aren't frickin' geniuses, and I stopped reading his site when he stopped writing on a regular basis. But do you really want to diss the dude for standing up for his co-blogger's right to editorialize as she did?

FWIW, his former instructor may have professional reason to want to run away from a mention on Protein Wisdom. That says much worse things about his instructor's profession than it says about Protein Wisdom.

"I have, on rare occasion, responded to what I considered the most egregious of those types of comments by letting the persons writing them know that, should I meet them in person, I wouldn't hesitate to snap their forearm or break their ankle.

I don't apologize for that. I don't go looking for these people, and to date -- having run a blog for close to 9 years -- I haven't yet had a single altercation."

Excuse me? Show me a single instance - just one - where I have ever uttered a single threat towards your family. I might have been, shall we say, less than complimentary of you, and if we were to play the odds vulgarity likely was involved, but between you and I, the first threat of violence was uttered by you.

You dishonest intellectual hack, out of nowhere you threatened me. Your sick, deluded world-view might allow you to believe differently, but those of us who are connect to reality know better.

In the interest of full disclosure, after a bit of checking, I was able to find not only where JeffyG threatens me, but also the post which I think was the cause. While I admit that in the Patterico thread, my comments numbers 129 (a favorite of mine for the use of one of JeffyG's best arguments against him), 132, 136 (I called him a massive, massive tool in that one), and 151 were - to put it kindly - not kind, I don't believe a single one of them could even remotely be considered a threat to his family, nor even to JeffyG.

A link is always good, Scott, but could you post the actual threat? Because I'm not seeing it.

Uh, I hope the Frey-Goldstein feud is not going to rekindle, here in these pleasant pastures. That sucker was like the Battle of the Somme, only longer and more violent.

Terribly sorry, Phantommut... Comment #589 in that thread...

"Thanks, sdferr. Scott Jacobs is one of those guys I mentioned that if I ever met him in person, I’d leave him in a heap, mewling like a baby pussy."

And Glen, when some dishonest tool falsely accuses me of threatening his family, I take great personal offense. I will refute such claims and prove them to be the falsehoods they are, and if they re-ignites something, then it does so because JeffyG wasn't called on his actions properly the first time around.

To be sure, JeffyG's first instinct is to out someone's real identity - he's done it multiple times. In my case such an act would be futile - what good is it to tell everyone my real name when that is the very moniker under which I blog and post. That being the case, he went to Plan B - threats made from the safety of his home, protected by the distance between his and his target's computer monitor. I'm certain he was at the least perplexed when I welcomed the challenge instead of being cowed into submission

Scott -

I'm someone who has read both Patterico and Protein Wisdom over the last few years, along with many other blogs, because they contain things that interest me.

I've taken sides in personal internet disputes before, and I have concluded that this is a whole bunch of no fun. What is especially not fun is the fact that they recur like rashes, with word for word reiteration. Over and over again.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a free speech freak and I believe in the right of everybody to hate everybody. One of the things I like about this forum at Winds of Change is that I don't feel obligated to agree with anyone when I don't agree with them. And I don't agree with Marc's assessment of Jeff Goldstein, or yours. Or with Jeff's assessment of you, or Patrick Frey, or whoever. I won't belittle your disputes, but I'm not interested in seeing the same wounds probed over and over again.

Some great stuff has been written on the blogs, and also a lot of stuff that wasn't worth the electrons. Stuff that should no more be taken seriously than black magic incantations or Frank Rich columns. Sometimes reasonable people are just wrong. Except me, of course.

JeffG, #21:

You're not talking about a simple distrust of government, you're calling mandatory nutritional labelling an ice rink turned on end to underscore the powerful slippery slope of it. That's not extreme rhetoric of the "Let's go kill someone," type, but it is an extreme position given the existence of mandatory nutritional labelling in packaged products for lo, these many decades.

You're also contending that someone is "going after" food in the same sense as tobacco, which again is not extreme in the sense of a call to violent action, but it's an extremely paranoid mindset.

I'm going to draw my own conclusions, here, as my part of the whole communications process, and infer that you're so far into minarchy that you're actually an anarchist.

I think we have very little left to discuss, except to note that a "Nuh-uh!" post on your part will be a stunningly unimpressive rebuttal.

BGates, #16:

Right, so I know your position on nutritional labelling, now.

Here's a thought experiment: Consider a world in which really high quality medical care is as cheap as food, as a percentage of GDP. Right now, we spend between 1 and 2% of GDP producing food, and we're still massively overproducing. So, consider that at some great date in the future, we get there on health care with technology.

Consider further that, just like there is still a small population today too poor to receive adequate food, there will still be a small subset of people too poor to receive adequate medical care, despite it being essentially a "solved problem," despite the existence of charitable organizations.

Would it then be appropriate to levy a small tax for the purpose of providing health care to those people? If not, how low does the fraction of GDP and the attendant taxation level need to be? 0.2%? 0.02%? 0.0002%? Never ever at all?

Remember, it's just a hypothetical, and no monkeying with the terms of the hypothetical just because you don't like it. Answer as posed and then monkey with it, if you must.

Jeff, you're saying you're the only blogger on the planet who's received a threat...I know that I have and I know that Glenn has. I've heard that several others have.

And yet I don't get into chestbeating matches on my site about it, nor does Glenn. So sorry, but some rhetorical bad wishes don't rise to the level of justification for the rhetoric I keep finding you writing.

And yes, yes, it's all part of an internal long-running language that outsiders can't possibly understand. Kind of like anthropogenic global warming, I guess.

I've spent about half an hour with Da Google and reading posts on your site, and I'll try and get something up this morning (I also need to get a contract done so I can get paid for something which kind of trumps everything). But let me toss out one quote from you about your gift-laden friend -

I predict Nishi will look very surprised the first time she’s knocked down by someone who doesn’t much like the glee she takes in the losses of freedom we’re undergoing.

I predict Nishi won’t have as much fun playing the griefer game once it becomes obvious that while she’s playing a game, many of us are not.

I predict Nishi’s only real ally here, happyfeet, will soon join her on the “left.”

I predict that Nishi doesn’t know who she’s fucking with.

I predict Nishi will soon find it best not to post here anymore.

I predict that I don’t much care about “blogging” anymore; I care about my family and my family’s future, and I see barren narcissists like Nishi as threats to my family — all because they get their kicks seeing how much they can connive their way into control and power.

I predict having such an attitude as Nishi’s will turn out badly.

...now that's what I'm talking about. Again, something more extensive later.

Marc

Leaving all the personality issues to the side, mandatory nutritional labeling is a pretty obvious maneuver at barrier-setting on the part of the very large chains at the expense of the just-starting-to-get-large chains. (Geez, that sentence looks like it was written in German - of Mark Twain to be speaking. Also!) Essentially, the cost of opening the 21st edition of a chain restaurant is much higher than it was last month. I've seen estimates that a chain in that marginal marketspace is going to have to fork out $200,000 to get the menu analyzed. That is going to have a negative impact on growth. It's going to make adding new menu items more expensive for those chains, as well. Large - truly large, not almost large - chains have test kitchens where these sorts of calculations are made anyway. The smaller ones don't. I personally know two restaurateurs who will be significantly impacted by this. One is an artist; he creates the menu himself, not in a test kitchen, but in his kitchen at home. It's going to cost him significant cash to continue expanding his chain. Another owns a pizza chain; new menu items are usually created by the high school kids working in his kitchen coming up with clever ideas. He also is going to take a hit.

Haben geworden sein.

Jeff, you're saying you're the only blogger on the planet who's received a threat...I know that I have and I know that Glenn has. I've heard that several others have. And yet I don't get into chestbeating matches on my site about it, nor does Glenn. So sorry, but some rhetorical bad wishes don't rise to the level of justification for the rhetoric I keep finding you writing.
You aren't me. And until you spend a year learning how feckless our legal system is in handling such threats when you follow their prescribed methods for combating them (which I did, at the expense of my time and at the expense of the strain it put on my family), you not only aren't me, but you have no idea how sanctimonious I find such scolding.

There used to be a thing called "fighting words." And not everyone who availed themselves of that proximate cause is some uber violent man child. As I say, I haven't yet come to blows with anyone, because I don't go looking. But I've let it be known how I feel, and I don't a apologize. (Scott Jacobs, for what's it worth, sent me his address and invited me to visit him; I prefer an organic meet-up; that he thinks anything I wrote her is about him is all you need to know about Scott or timb. These guys seem to show up anywhere I'm discussed, like a pair of ramoras).

As for the response to Nishi you quote, all the more to my point: Nishi is there being addressed as a type, and she is being answered by the type she has cast us as in that thread.

To get the context, you need to have been active in the thread as it was happening. Since that comment, I've been in email contact with her. She doesn't feel at all threatened, nor, I'm sure, did she perceive anything I wrote as a threat.

That some people have chosen to pull these things out, isolate them, and editorialize on them as they redound to my character, only shows me that some people spend way too much time trolling through long and heated comment threads (some get into the thousands) looking for "gotcha" quotes.

You prefer a certain kind of tone in blogging. Me, I vary. And because I vary, it makes no sense to seize on one tone as bespeaking my site's attitude while bracketing all the rest.

No, Jeff, I'm not you. That's kind of a given here, right? And surprisingly, I'm not even opposed to the idea of reacting to "fighting words" and have so educated my sons.

But...there's a world of difference in what's a fighting word in a bar at 1am, in a mall at noon, in church, at a Raiders home game, and at a political rally.

Part of the responsibility you take on as a practitioner of violence is being able to make distinctions like that. Another part is to look in the mirror and honestly examine why it is that you get in so many situations where fighting words are being thrown down, and examining what if any role you play.

I get it that controversy builds attention and that attention builds traffic and reputation; I'm just suggesting that you're a step over the line.

Note that for my personal style and taste, you'd be a kilometer over the line...but I get it that we're all different.

I'd never suggest that you be shut down or punished; I'm just suggesting in as friendly a way as I know how that you take a breath and look at what's going on around you.

Marc

"Scott Jacobs, for what's it worth, sent me his address and invited me to visit him; I prefer an organic meet-up; that he thinks anything I wrote her is about him is all you need to know about Scott or timb. These guys seem to show up anywhere I'm discussed, like a pair of ramoras"

Well, you did ask for my address...

You said "I have, on rare occasion, responded to what I considered the most egregious of those types of comments by letting the persons writing them know that, should I meet them in person, I wouldn’t hesitate to snap their forearm or break their ankle.".

"Those types of comment"? I assume that "those" refers to people who have threatened you son and/or have wished "[you] and [your] family death from cancer, or in airplane crashes, etc."

Are those are the only ones you respond to with threats, or do you just randomly spout internet threats at people who dare not join your sycophantic circle-jerk?

Because if the former, you best be able to show where I threatened you or your family in any way after 1:18am on December 14th, 2009.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Terribly sorry, that should have read "Because if the former, you best be able to show where I threatened you or your family in any way before 1:18am on December 14th, 2009."

Mea culpa.

OK, yay for Jeff Goldstein, with the following caveats:
* It's bad to be an angry, negative person or to tolerate them around.
* Old-school, first half of the 20th Century manners are best.

Donald Sensing does it right. Deviations from his standard are generally regrettable.

You don't have to be a madman with the ban stick like Charles Johnson, it has a proper function if you apply a rule like "no profanities" with even severity.

Scott, thanks for actually providing the quote; comment 589, huh?

The funny thing is, of course, that if I had waded that far down, I would have had trouble identifying that as any kind of serious threat. But your mileage may vary.

As to the whole "tone becomes philosophy" thing, I think solid anger at a moral and ethical evil is entirely appropriate. Acceptance of "memory holing" anyplace is bad; it is especially bad in academia. Kitely's animosity toward Goldstein isn't the evil here, it's the effort to airbrush a history. If we can't separate that from the "tone" of Jeff's response, we're making a category error that lets the big sin off while flagellating the little one.

Good: Jeff Goldstein just placed this incident in its correct context. (link) It is an instance of shunning.

This one of the means by which a dominant "liberal" elite pathologizes, punishes, silences and suppresses the legitimate those in disfavored classes, or those who fail to "get with the program" on politics, culture and bogus science.

It's the same sort of thing as the phony climate scientists shutting up their skeptics, by keeping them outside the favored crowd of those who are published in peer reviewed journals.

Shunning hurts, and it's meant to, which is why anger (not chronic, senseless anger but specific, in-context anger) is appropriate.

Shunning demeans and diminishes, which is why those subjected to it should assert their self-worth. This is proper and necessary and should not be attacked as "self-righteousness".

Shunning de-credentials, in this case strategically, in other words not for valid reasons of professional competence but to make one side win politically. It's right for the relatively conservative people who are mostly the victims in this culture war to kick up a fuss about this.

"Kicking up a fuss" can never be entirely civil in the view of those inclined to sympathy with the shunning and shutting-up side. You're talking back! They don't want that!

But you should, for yourself and others. For relatively conservative people to give in easy rewards and empowers the aggressors in a very nasty and consequential culture war.

"Shunning hurts . . ."

Yeah, my neutrally stated criticism over at Mondoweiss was "moderated" out of existence. So I can relate. But I can take it, and will give the site the Wall Street Vote.

David, if Jeff was about expanding liberty, smacking at apparatchniks, and pushing back on teh crazy, I'd be all for him - we might disagree about some things, but I think we're basically in a similar place - me on the left, him on the right. I don't think my credibility in those areas is really something I worry about much.

I'd applaud and support him (as I have).

But I've got a problem with verbal bullying; I've bitched Charles Johnson out for it (before it was cool), I've bitched the left out about it (starting back in 02 with the SF State fracas), and if people who are loosely on 'my team' do it, I'll bitch them out about it to.

What Jeff has done is, in my view, bullshit and beneath his intellect and talents as a writer.

I dropped him from the WoC blogroll because I was tired of it, and I didn't want to lend his brand - as it stands - my support.

That's not 'shunning' that's manners. They're useful, and we all ought to practice with them more often.

I'll try and finish the post when I get back from the gym.

AL: "But I've got a problem with verbal bullying; I've bitched Charles Johnson out for it (before it was cool), I've bitched the left out about it (starting back in 02 with the SF State fracas), and if people who are loosely on 'my team' do it, I'll bitch them out about it to."

True, and double points for being right when I was dead wrong (on Little Green Footballs).

AL: "I dropped him from the WoC blogroll because I was tired of it, and I didn't want to lend his brand - as it stands - my support."

Fair enough. Even from my point of view - Protein Wisdom is not passing the Donald Sensing test.

AL: "That's not 'shunning' that's manners. They're useful, and we all ought to practice with them more often."

Warmly agreed.

I spoke of "shunning" in the context of the original dispute. I hadn't thought of applying the idea to you, though the connection is obvious once you think of it. I can see why, given that, you have to answer.

In your reply, AL, could you say something about what you think of Jeff Goldtein's philosophy? Not tone as philosophy, but his opinions about things like who decides the meaning of an utterance and why. Because it's this, rather than ice dildo drolleries, that attracts my sympathetic attention.

David Blue,

As someone whose views may be different from what you believe them to be (or maybe not -- I don't know), I'd like to weigh in on the "meaning of an utterance" issue.

I give my opinion, not as someone with a background in linguistics, but (principally) as a writer interested in the value of clear communication.

For people who care about communication, the basic principles are less in dispute than I think many realize. The essential rule is this: the meaning of an utterance is determined by the speaker. That meaning is fixed at the moment of speaking.

Once the statement is made, it must be interpreted. The guiding principle is that people should attempt to determine the speaker's intent.

But interpretation is not the same as intent. Interpretation is the act of attempting to discern intent.

Some people confuse intent, meaning, and interpretation. When you speak, you exclusively determine your meaning. Your meaning is the meaning you intended.

But you, as the speaker, do not exclusively determine the proper interpretation of your meaning. You do not serve as the exclusive authority as to the proper interpretation of your intent. You could be lying, mistaken, or unavailable.

What this means in practical terms is that the audience is free to tell you that your interpretation of your own words is wrong. As long as the audience is truly attempting to ascertain your true intent, the audience is not doing any violence to the concept of intentionalism.

These principles are important to understand. When someone makes an interpretive argument that shows that they have no interest in appealing to the author's intent, that person can rightly be set straight by reference to the above principles.

But once the basic principles are understood, I think the discussion is not over. That's the point when the discussion is just beginning.

Because people can honestly disagree as to the proper interpretation of the speaker's meaning. And in real life, the rubber meets the road in these disagreements.

Where things get interesting, I think, is in related discussions touching on interpretive questions. Without getting into the related discussions in depth, they have to do with these concepts:

  • When a speaker uses words with a commonly understood meaning, what bearing does that commonly understood meaning have on the issue of the proper interpretation of the speaker's words?
  • When a speaker communicates a message that he knows will have a particular impact on his audience, what bearing does that knowledge have on the proper interpretation of his words?
  • When the speech in question does not emanate from a single speaker, but rather from a group (my example would be a legislative body), do the standard principles of intentionalism always hold true? Or is there a sound justification for determining that the proper interpretation is not necessarily that which appeals to the subjective intent of the "speaker(s)" -- or even of the ratifiers?

As to that last bullet point: Justice Scalia argues that there is indeed a sound justification for such an interpretive method -- one that eschews legislative intent for a reasonable reading of what the words mean to a reasonable audience -- and I agree with him in the legislative context. The reason is best illustrated by an example:

David Blue's legislature passes a law imposing a hefty tax on "anyone making over $1,000,000 per year" -- with criminal penalties applicable to those who fail to pay the tax.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that they REALLY INTENDED for the law to apply to "anyone making over $10,000 a year." But they wrote "anyone making over $1,000,000 per year." (Whoops!)

David Blue makes $50,000 per year. Following the letter of the law, he pays no taxes. He is then prosecuted -- and the prosecutor argues that the legislators' TRUE INTENT was to make David Blue liable for the tax ... and thus for the criminal penalty for any failure to pay it.

Justice Scalia (and I) would argue that the legislators' intent can go hang. David Blue doesn't have to pay the tax, and he can't be prosecuted. The rule of law says that he can only be prosecuted for what a reasonable man in his position would read the law to mean -- and that reading, therefore, is the best one for a judge to give effect to.

How a strict intentionalist would come down on this question, I can only guess. I suppose they would say that any interpretation which does not appeal to the speakers' (or in the case of a law, the ratifiers') subjective true intent is simply a rewriting of the text.

But I'm not sure how easily such an argument can be applied in practice, when the ratifiers may have had a bundle of different intentions -- being a body of very different people driven by different motivations.

Even if you genuinely appeal to the actual intent of the collective (defined as the intent of a majority of the ratifiers), that could lead to a result that I think most rational Americans would agree is unfair and unAmerican: namely, that David Blue could be prosecuted for nonpayment of a tax that the plain language of the statute says does not apply to him.

I have been meaning to write a post about this. Thanks to Winds of Change for allowing me to float a badly written draft here.

(Let me just say: anyone who responds to my argument with any mixture of condescension, strawmen, irrelevancies, personal attacks, or other obnoxious or fallacious argument styles will be roundly ignored (at least by myself). I took some time with this, and I think that anyone who wants to take on my arguments should do so on the merits without resorting to unnecessary hostilities or other sorts of fallacious arguments.)

Patterico:

I like your comment. I've brought this up here before, but take a look at the Short Dictionary of Misunderstood Words in Milan Kundera's "Book of Laughter and Forgetting." It is a masterful exposition of how intent, meaning, and interpretation interplay between two people.

Marcus:
I know your position on nutritional labelling, now.

Would you like to know my position on murdering people with rat poison? Go ahead, take a guess.

I'll give you a hint: It's not what you would expect from someone who's opposed to mandatory nutritional labelling.

Here's a thought experiment: Consider a world in which really high quality medical care is as cheap as food

OK, so ObamaCare has been hypothetically repealed. With you so far.

Consider further that, just like there is still a small population today too poor to receive adequate food, there will still be a small subset of people too poor to receive adequate medical care, despite it being essentially a "solved problem," despite the existence of charitable organizations.

How small? Smallpox sufferers small? Small enough that they wouldn't be missed if we murdered them all with rat poison?

Would it then be appropriate to levy a small tax for the purpose of providing health care to those people? If not, how low does the fraction of GDP and the attendant taxation level need to be? 0.2%? 0.02%? 0.0002%? Never ever at all?

80% and 100% respectively, but with the stipulations that the tax is levied only on those who thought taxing other people was the moral thing to do, and that nobody finds out the first stipulation is in the bill until after it becomes law.

Here's one for you: Imagine a world where exorbitant government expenditures and intrusion into the private sphere inexplicably fails to produce paradise. If the poor are still with us after the American middle class has been sacrificed to your moral preening, there will still be wealthy foreigners. Would you object if the US announced that it would impose a global tax of 50% of the net worth of anyone worth more than $10 million? If so, why do you recoil from threatening the aristocracies of what are only Developing and not Developed Nations because they're ruled by thugs, but you're ok jacking up some podiatrist from Dubuque?

Feel free to answer at your leisure. Ooop, you wouldn't like that - feel coerced by the threat of a jail term not to exceed 10 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000, that seems to be more your thing.

"Glen, there's a world of difference between an 'acid tone' (I have all of Twain and Mencken on the shelves) and 'if I ever meet you, I'll kick your ass' and 'fucked with an ice dildo'...."

Sounds more like Catullus.

In the course of revisiting this thread to link some comments to a piece on government regulation of salt intake, I just now noticed Mr Frey's contribution, which I'll take a brief moment to address. Frey asks, in turn:
When a speaker uses words with a commonly understood meaning, what bearing does that commonly understood meaning have on the issue of the proper interpretation of the speaker's words?
First, the idea of a "commonly understood meaning" is a question of convention. Convention is usable inasmuch as it helps to signal intent. Of course, conventional usages often change over time, and the only way for that to happen is for new usages to pressure established conventions. Thus, what is "commonly understood" at one moment may not be commonly understood at some other moment. Which is why one of the things interpreters do is try to gauge the context of the utterance. Context and convention both provide clues to intent, which is what governs meaning -- and which, as Frey rightly points out, is what we are after.
When a speaker communicates a message that he knows will have a particular impact on his audience, what bearing does that knowledge have on the proper interpretation of his words?
The assumption hidden here is that the speaker always knows who the entirety of his audience might be, or that he can somehow account for all the varying motivations of his audience. If a person is aware that parts of his audience are likely motivated to take him out of context -- to take him to mean something that he doesn't mean -- he can either try to adjust his message to make it difficult to take him out of context (and risk weakening his rhetorical impact); or he can proceed with his message and defend his intent. The former, it seems to me, is a fool's errand in situations where the objective of those who are determined to misappropriate meaning is to put the speaker on the defensive. But in any case, the speaker must decide which rhetorical strategy is best for a given situation. His meaning hasn't changed.
When the speech in question does not emanate from a single speaker, but rather from a group (my example would be a legislative body), do the standard principles of intentionalism always hold true? Or is there a sound justification for determining that the proper interpretation is not necessarily that which appeals to the subjective intent of the "speaker(s)" -- or even of the ratifiers?
One always appeals to intent, which is why I've written on numerous occasions that intentionalism just is.

The intent is always there -- in combined wills of the ratifiers. This complicates interpretation, certainly, and requires of the interpreter more work, but the alternative is much worse, for reasons I'll explain.

Frey writes:
Justice Scalia argues that there is indeed a sound justification for such an interpretive method -- one that eschews legislative intent for a reasonable reading of what the words mean to a reasonable audience -- and I agree with him in the legislative context.
What Scalia (and Frey) are doing here is giving themselves permission to avoid doing the hard work of interpretation in exchange for doing the clever work that comes from viewing the text as somehow existing as a text outside of the intent that was required to turn squiggles into actual language through the process of signification.

In essence, they are advocating for a formalist position with respect to interpretation -- with the New Critics as their model.

But even moving beyond the two instances of a value-laden "reasonableness" required to begin the process (who decides what comes to count as "reasonable"?), the interpretive method Scalia and Frey speak for doesn't work as they think it does -- as a quick look at Frey's example will illustrate.

Writes Frey:
David Blue's legislature passes a law imposing a hefty tax on "anyone making over $1,000,000 per year" -- with criminal penalties applicable to those who fail to pay the tax.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that they REALLY INTENDED for the law to apply to "anyone making over $10,000 a year." But they wrote "anyone making over $1,000,000 per year." (Whoops!)

David Blue makes $50,000 per year. Following the letter of the law, he pays no taxes. He is then prosecuted -- and the prosecutor argues that the legislators' TRUE INTENT was to make David Blue liable for the tax ... and thus for the criminal penalty for any failure to pay it.

Justice Scalia (and I) would argue that the legislators' intent can go hang. David Blue doesn't have to pay the tax, and he can't be prosecuted. The rule of law says that he can only be prosecuted for what a reasonable man in his position would read the law to mean -- and that reading, therefore, is the best one for a judge to give effect to.
Any interpretive endeavor relies on signs (the simplest formation of which is signifier -- the sound form or mark + the signified -- the the "thing" being signaled) And a failure to properly signal intent (in this case, by representing $10,000 with the signifier "$1,000,000") has consequences -- which is really what is being evinced in this example. That is to say, if the legislature actually did intend to write "$10,000," that's what they meant -- and that wouldn't change just because they accidentally penned another signifier. However, what the consequences are for failing to properly signal that intent in law will depend on additional ideas about justice or contract, etc., that go beyond mere interpretive theory.

For Scalia and Frey to argue that the legislator's intent can "go hang" -- if in so doing they are dismissing that intent as somehow responsible for giving the language its meaning -- is dangerous precisely because it then privileges their intent over that of the legislators. And this is the very definition of judicial activism.

Instead, the proper response is to note that the legislator's intent (if you believe their claim to it) is not at all clear as presented; and so the law needs to be rewritten to better signal the intent before the judge will agree to uphold it. The law favors conventional usage, because conventional usage best signals intent in the absence of ancillary documentation. But even that, over time, can become problematized (see, eg., arguments over the wording of the Second Amendment).

In the example offered, Scalia and Frey are refusing to uphold a poorly written law regardless of what it intends, because they are appealing to a sense of justice that transcends the finery of hermeneutics.

They are, therefore, engaging in a bit of judicial activism (if in fact they believe the claims of the legislators about their actual intent). Either that, or they simply aren't buying the legislators' argument that they intended something so clearly at odds with what they signaled.

Either way, no tenet of intentionalism has been troubled.

You know, Jeff - this is stuff I'd love to engage with and something where great discussions are possible.

If only you hadn't left douchebag comments on your site explaining that I thought you and your followers were "unclean" - which is kinda the opposite of what I actually said to you in your conversations.

SO I'll give you a shot - explain to me why - in the context above - I should let you play here, much less engage you in substantive conversation?

Did I misinterpret?

Marc

It's your site, Marc. You don't have to let me do anything.

As for the comments you're referring to, I'd need to see a link to get the context. If I had to guess, I'd say that the "unclean" reference goes back to some things commenter dicentra was writing about social shunnings -- and connects directly to your having made a public show of my screeching and unacceptable "tone".

-- Which in itself makes for a substantive conversation, in my opinion. YMMV, of course, but I've found that I can often create useful discussions even out of those comments or posts whose "tone" I don't much care for.

It really wasn't Jeff - it was after our private correspondence - which it directly contradicted, and it was aimed at me, not at anyone else.

I've got problems with that: the simple discourtesy of it; the amplified discourtesy of not saying it to my face when you'd deserved an apology for my milder criticism; immensely, the fact that you lied about what I said; and the fact that you'd have one conversation with me and one completely different one with your fans.

So I'm kind of stuck here, as I hope you'll understand.

If you want to go back over that and try and offer some kind of explanation I'm open. Until we get past that, I'd prefer you stay on your own patch.

Marc

I am not sure what you are referring to. I am also unsure how your public pronouncements about the appropriateness of Kiteley's actions -- which I and others had already tied to the idea of the shunning of the "unclean" -- makes my referring to that impulse in your posts dishonest.

The private conversations I had with your were not over Kiteley and shunning (and your support thereof). They were over the appropriateness of "fighting words".

But if you want me on my own patch, that's fine. Your site, your rules.

Jeff, I don't know what to say to that except "whatever" - you're not interested in justifying your behavior in any way that engages me, and without that justification, I'm not interested in any engagement with you.

It's sort of like not playing cards with someone who you feel deals from the bottom of the deck from time to time. It's just not worth it.

Catch you around.

Marc

For the public record...

Here's what Jeff wrote

Incidentally, we’re a contagion, and Armed Liberal closed his thread on me to stop the spread. The dangers of communitarian politics, I guess: the possibility of an epidemic.

This immediately follows these in email:

Jeff:

At any rate, thanks for the discussion opportunity. And sorry for the contagion. We're unclean, some of us.

Me, responding:

Your folks aren't 'unclean' and I've never said so...yammering, perhaps...annoyingly persistent...but generally cute and obviously
loyal.

So I'm hoping people will understand my disinterest in playing...

Marc

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